The New York Times online provoked a spirited debate
yesterday with the question: Are American’s hostile to knowledge? Nearly 1000
weighed in on the comment board,
which accompanied an article describing Susan Jacoby’s new book: The Age of American Unreason.
Jacoby decries what she describes as an American culture of
widespread ignorance and anti-intellectualism, citing the alarming results of
the 2006 National Geographic-Roper
Survey of Geographic Literacy as evidence in support of her claim.
Here’s how a selection of contributors responded:
“Americans miss out on global knowledge due to their innate
egocentrism. Institutions, as well as government, foster a sense that the world
revolves around the USA and nothing else matters. Nonethless [sic],
the rest of the world is taking advantage of the true effects of this
“global village”, sharing experiences and being more aware of both
diversity and commonalities.”
“Is it perception or fact? And does it permeate throughout
all sectors of US society. [sic] I
believe that there are certain groups of people that have never bothered to
know anything beyond the end of there noses and that is just fine with them. It
speaks badly for them because their ignorance shows through, but worse than
that gives an image about Americans to the outside world that says, “yes we’re
dumb, but so what, we’re comfortable in our skin being that way.”
“There is a tradition of anti-intellectualism in the United States.
Unfortunately, the fault lies partly with our educational philosophy. To this
day, students are taught to memorize and regurgitate, rather than educated in
skills and problem solving.”
These crises of geographic/global illiteracy and educational
oversight are of fundamental concern to the My Wonderful World campaign, our
international studies colleagues at the ISSA
conference, environmental studies advocates, and many others in the
educational arena and beyond.
Tell us: What do you
think about Jacoby’s book and the comments posted on NYTimes.com? Are Americans
hostile to knowledge, in general? And more specifically: Are Americans hostile
to global knowledge?
I’ll offer my own perspective on this after the
Happy Presidents’ Day!
Sarah for My Wonderful World